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Brazil Conditionally Accepts Aid from G-7 Countries to Fight Amazon Wildfires


In this handout photo released by the government news agency Agencia Brasil, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, center, talks with reporters outside the presidential official residence Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 27, 2019.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says his country will accept aid from G-7 countries to battle wildfires in the Amazon rainforest only if French President Emmanuel Macron retracts what Bolsonaro considers offensive remarks.

Bolsonaro told reporters Tuesday Macron accused him of being a liar, adding that Macron has to retract his comments "and from there we can talk."

Macron has questioned Bolsonaro's honesty and commitment to protecting the environment. Macron threatened last week to block a free trade deal between Latin America and the European Union unless Bolsonaro, a climate change skeptic, took serious steps to fight the Amazon fires. Bolsonaro's conditional acceptance of the aid comes one day after he rejected the money, declaring the funds could be better used in Europe.

Bolsonaro's chief of staff, Onyx Lorenzoni, told the G1 news website on Monday Brazil appreciated the offer but that, "Maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe."

The rejection came after Brazilian Environment Minister Ricardo Salles said Brazil welcomed the funding.

World leaders at the recently concluded G-7 summit in France of the world's biggest economies committed an immediate $20 million on Monday to fight the raging wildfires in the Amazon countries in South America. The blazes are threatening the world's biggest rainforest.

A tree stump glows with fire amid smoke along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil's Amazon, Aug. 26, 2019.
A tree stump glows with fire amid smoke along the road to Jacunda National Forest, near the city of Porto Velho in the Vila Nova Samuel region which is part of Brazil's Amazon, Aug. 26, 2019.

President Macron, the summit host, and Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a visitor at the event, said that the rainforest now being ravaged by the fires represents the "lungs" of the planet for its role in absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.

Macron said France within hours would provide military support in the region to fight the fires.

Lorenzoni took aim at Macron, declaring Brazil is a nation that "never had colonialist and imperialist practices, as perhaps is the objective of the Frenchman Macron."

Lorenzoni also said Macron could not "even avoid a foreseeable fire in a church that is a world heritage site," a reference to an April fire that devastated France's Notre-Dame cathedral.

Macron and Pinera said the G-7 countries -- the United States, Britain, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and France -- were studying the possibility of similar aid to support Africa to fight wildfires in its rainforests.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump pledged his "complete support" for Bolsonaro. In a tweet, Trump said Bolsonaro "is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil - Not easy."

Under pressure from the international community to protect the environment, Bolsonaro on Sunday dispatched two C-130 Hercules aircraft to help douse the flames. Macron said the United States supported the aid to South American countries even though Trump skipped Monday's G-7 working session on the environment.

More than 75,000 fires covering the Amazon region have been detected this year, with a large number of them this month. Experts have blamed farmers and ranchers for the fires, accusing them of setting them to clear lands for farming.